Lessons from the Yoga Mat is a series about my experiences on the yoga mat as both a teacher and student. I hope that by sharing my experiences it will open up the conversation and help you along your way as a student or an instructor.
Or should I say - when things don't go as planned? Either way, no matter how much work you put into planning a yoga class sometimes things go wrong - a question might pop up that you can't answer, you might forget your sequencing or your music, you may have planned a kick ass power flow with lots of arm balances and a total beginner turns up - these are a few things that have happened to me and how I personally dealt with them. I would love to know if you would have done something differently, let me know in the comments below!
When students jump out of their skin during an assist
I get it, some people don't like assists, others love them and sometimes it's all about learning to know when someone is open to an assist and who isn't. Generally I get it right and I like to think that I can feel the 'yes please assist me' vibe but once during savasana, music swelling, everyone was quiet and in their own space. So I pad around the room squeezing ankles, which feels super nice, hits a meridian line and the intention is to take the student deeper into their own space. Apart from when they jump dramatically, gasp and sit bolt upright. Yep, that happened. In a room full of 30 people. So note to self - always remind students that they may or may not receive an assist during savasana!
(Mini side note, if I am leading a regular group class and a new student appears I don't tend to give physical assists in that very first class with me just because I like to learn how a person moves first, how they modify for their own body. Is that just me, teachers - what do you do?)
When a student asks you a medical question
This happens more often than I like, for some reason sometimes students think you will know everything there is to know about their ankle injury, niggling elbow or pulled muscle. They are generally just looking for advice which I am always happy to give about yoga poses, alignment, how long it will take to touch your toes but when it comes to medical questions tread carefully. If you don't know the answer (about anything) the best thing you can do is just to say that you don't know. If it is a medical question I use the line - 'I'm not medically trained, you are best to check with your Doctor or GP'. You are always best to admit when you don't know something rather than try to guess what the cause is.
When you have a technical mishap
Oh I have had several of these, but this is the one that sticks in my mind the most. My music is on my phone so I remember to bring it with me all the time.
Apart from that time when I didn't.
I was pretty new to teaching, maybe about 3 months in and I had a double class to lead at a gym. At first I had a minor panic, then a meltdown, then I realised that I don't need my music to lead a kick ass class anyway - all of this happened in my head by the way, like most things! I love music for a yoga class because it sets the mood and pace for your class, it allows the mental chitter chatter to subside and it allows you to enter that sweet state of flow - the union between the body and the mind. I also think it is very much a part of leading flow classes - plus music is fun! Anyway, after my minor panic I decided that YES I CAN do this and led two really fun classes.
When a student confronts you
I don't hide who I am during my classes, I am me and as such people take me as I am. I make jokes during classes, I am clumsy, I approach the practice with honesty, I love to play with sequencing and sometimes that happens on the spot, unplanned, in the moment. Sometimes I play instrumental music, sometimes popular songs, sometimes folk, sometimes a bit of hip hop. I don't expect it to please everyone that walks through the door but it's the vibe I go for in my classes and my regular students love that I play different songs to general flowery yoga music.
During one of my Thursday evening classes I was moving around the room assisting and leading the class, in the flow of guiding when all of a sudden I heard a very loud voice directed at me from one of the students, so I carefully and quietly walked over - 'Can you turn that song off it is distracting me' they said. I just nodded and headed back to my mat, not skipping the song or turning it down. I regrouped and carried on leading the class as before. I didn't change the music it was a group class, it would have altered the vibe. The music wasn't louder than any other time, the song was a hip hop one and we were at the peak of the flow so it fitted. That one person disturbed the other 20 people in the room without a second thought and everyone noticed. If something like that happens to you, don't take it personally, stick to your guns, don't bend to one person. Just know that you can't please everyone, most people will love your classes and what you have to offer, others won't, that's just the way of the world. Never apologise for who you are - lead your classes with your heart.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you had anything go wrong during a class as either a teacher or student? I would love to know. Leave me a comment below.
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